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Two years ago I never thought I’d be living in China. Before coming to China, I never thought that I’d have friends from all around the world that I’d meet there. I just finished talking with a friend from Italy, which inspired me to write about this. It took a few months to get used to the fact that a majority of foreigners I see are not from the US. It also took a while for my answer for, “Where are you from?” to change from “ Philadelphia ” to “The U.S.”. I’d say about half of the Chinese people guess Africa before they guess American. Foreigners don’t assume, they just ask.

Since I’ve been here I’ve met people from the following countries:

  • Botswana
  • Ivory Coast
  • Switzerland
  • Italy
  • France
  • Lithuania
  • England
  • India
  • Mauritius (actually, an island near this country, but it’s so obscure that forgot the name)
  • Dubai
  • The Netherlands (Holland)
  • Philippines
  • Malaysia
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Germany
  • Indonesia
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • US
  • China (of course)

 

In meeting these people, number one, I am extremely jealous that all of them are fluent in at least two languages. How many Americans can say that? Every time I’ve met anyone in China this is how the conversation starts.

Meeting another foreigner – in English, because everybody speaks English:

  1. Where are you from
  2. How long have you been here?
  3. What do you do here?
  4. How long are you staying?
  5. Can you speak Chinese?

 

Meeting a Chinese person – most young Chinese people you will meet know some English, but if you can speak Chinese, taxi drivers, some waitresses, and random folks will want answers to these questions too.

Although during the daytime you wouldn’t notice this fact, but I have been told that there are two million foreigners that live in Shanghai. (Larger than the total population of Philly), and I believe most of them to be under 35 years old. After work the foreigners come out to play in downtown Shanghai. The scene changes, more foreigners than Chinese people. This is because most of the downtown nightlife in the city is catered to foreigners. For this reason, downtown Shanghai is like a city in itself.

Most of the foreigners I’ve met here are very cool people. I think it’s because we all have some things in common, 1. we had the ambition, courage (or whatever you want to call it) to choose to leave our home country and live in another place, and 2. we all face and deal with the constant shock and awe of Chinese culture and customs every day. One thing I do find also amongst foreigners I meet here, is that they have traveled to many places in the world before coming to China, and most have lived other places as well. People are surprised to find out that I am living in China and it’s the first time I’ve left the US. My first chance to travel abroad was during the summer of 2001 but that did not happen. Ironically, that trip was denied me by Towson Univ., because I would have missed RA training, and this trip was made possible by Towson Univ. Ironic, don’t you think?

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